Our vets at Wachusett Animal Hospital recommend that all indoor cats and outdoor cats receive the FVRCP vaccine. Here we explain why we feel this vaccine is essential and what diseases it helps to protect your cat against.
Essential Vaccines for Your Cat
The FVRCP vaccine is one of two core vaccines for cats. Core vaccines are shots that most vets strongly recommended for all cats regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor cats. The other core vaccine for cats is the Rabies vaccine which is not only recommended but actually required by law in many states.
Although many pet parents believe that their indoor cats are safe from infectious diseases, it's simply not the case. Some viruses that cause the serious feline conditions listed below can live on surfaces for up to a year. That means that if your indoor cat sneaks out the door even for just a minute they are at risk of coming in contact with the virus, and becoming seriously ill.
Cats are also at risk of contracting these conditions when staying at overnight boarding facilities or if they visit professional pet groomers no matter how neat and clean the facility is.
What The FVRCP Vaccine Protects Against
The FVRCP vaccine for cats helps to protect your kitty against 3 highly contagious and life-threatening feline diseases, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (that's the FVR part of the vaccine name), Feline Calicivirus (represented by the C), and Feline Panleukopenia (the P at the end of the vaccine name).
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FHV-1)
Feline viral rhinotracheitis (also called feline herpesvirus type 1 or FHV-1) is believed to be responsible for up to 80-90% of all infectious upper respiratory diseases in cats. This disease can affect your cat's nose and windpipe as well as cause problems during pregnancy.
Symptoms of FVR include fever, sneezing, inflamed eyes and nose, and discharge from eyes and nose. In healthy adult cats, these symptoms may be mild and begin to clear up after about 5-10 days, in more severe cases symptoms can last for 6 weeks or longer.
In kittens, senior cats, and immune-compromised cats symptoms of FHV-1 may persist and worsen, leading to depression, loss of appetite, severe weight loss, and sores within your cat's mouth. Bacterial infections often occur in cats that are already ill with feline viral rhinotracheitis.
Even once symptoms of this disease have cleared the virus remains dormant in your cat's body and can flare up repeatedly over your cat's lifetime.
Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
This virus is a major cause of upper respiratory infections and oral disease in cats.
Feline calicivirus symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, eye inflammation, and clear or yellow discharge from the cat's eyes or nose. Some cats will also develop painful ulcers on their tongue, palate, lips or nose. Often cats infected with feline calicivirus suffer from loss of appetite (leading to weight loss), fever, enlarged lymph nodes, squinting and lethargy.
There are a number of different strains of feline calicivirus, some produce fluid buildup in the lungs (pneumonia), whereas others lead to symptoms such as fever, joint pain and lameness.
Feline Panleukopenia (FPL)
Feline Panleukopenia is an extremely common and serious virus in cats that causes damage to bone marrow, lymph nodes and the cells lining the intestines. Symptoms of FPL include depression, loss of appetite, high fever, lethargy, vomiting, severe diarrhea, nasal discharge, and dehydration.
Cats infected with feline panleukopenia often develop secondary infections as well, due to the weakened state of their immune systems. Although this disease can attack cats of any age it is often fatal in kittens.
No medications are currently available to kill the virus that causes FPL so treating cats with feline panleukopenia involves treating dehydration and shock through intravenous fluid therapy and intensive nursing care.
When Your Cat Should Have Their FVRCP Vaccination
Your cat's first FVRCP vaccination should be administered when they are at about 6-8 weeks of age, a booster shot should be administered every three or four weeks until they are about 16-20 weeks old. After that your kitten will need another booster when they are just over a year old, then every 3 years throughout their lifetime.
For more information about when your cat should receive vaccines visit our vaccination schedule.
FVRCP Vaccine Possible Side Effects
It's unusual for cats to suffer from side effects related to vaccines, but when they do occur they tend to be very mild. Most cats that do experience side effects will develop a slight fever and feel a little 'off' for a day or two. It is not unusual for there to be a small amount of swelling at the vaccine site.
In some very rare cases, more extreme reactions to vaccines can occur. In these cases symptoms tend to appear before the cat has even left the vet's office, although they can appear up to 48 hours following the vaccination.
Signs that your cat is experiencing a more severe reaction can include hives, swelling around the lips and eyes, itchiness, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and breathing difficulties.
If your cat is exhibiting any of the more severe symptoms of a reaction listed above, contact your vet immediately or visit the emergency animal hospital nearest you.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.